Empathy for My Husband as He Battles Migraines
Most of us would probably agree that there isn’t a lot about psoriasis we like. However, when pressed to find something positive, many of us will answer to the effect of “it’s helped me understand people with other chronic conditions,” or “it’s increased my empathy.” My husband suffers from very bad migraines, and I was thinking the other day how a lifetime with psoriasis has prepared me to recognize and empathize with his struggle.
What is empathy?
Empathy is the ability to understand, with a deep awareness, the feelings and actions of another person – often because your own life experience has created those same feelings, or inspired those same actions, in you. Even though every chronic condition is different, the burden can feel familiar. While many may struggle with a partner who doesn’t understand, marrying someone with a chronic condition can eliminate that disconnect.
Similarities between living with Psoriasis and living with Migraine
So, where do I find the similarities between my psoriasis and my husband's migraines?
He feels the need to put on a brave face
My husband is one of the strongest people I know. I’m sure this contributes to his putting on a brave face. Like me, he often minimizes his discomfort when friends or family ask, hiding how much it affects him. He assures loved ones that everything is fine, even when it isn’t. We both tend to keep our struggles, for the most part, private.
He struggles to stay positive
Like psoriasis, migraines can affect mental health. The burden of bearing extreme pain for extended periods of time takes a toll. Like me during some of my worst flares, migraines can really bring my husband down. Negativity, pessimism, depression, and anxiety are constantly trying to invade.
He experiences the frustration of medications that stop working and trying to find replacements
Those with psoriasis will appreciate the frustration of having an effective medication suddenly stop working. The same is true for migraines, with my husband’s treatments becoming less effective as his body gets used to them. Having a promising treatment slowly wear off is disheartening. The search for a new treatment is often daunting and exhausting.
He worries about how migraine may impact future employment
I’ve written previously about how psoriasis and the threat of psoriatic arthritis pushed me to change my career; my husband has similar fears. What if it gets worse? What if I’m not able to do my job reliably? Will future employers be flexible?
He deals with unsolicited advice
Everyone and their cousin seem to know someone who has known someone who cured their psoriasis with [insert magic cream/pill here]. It is no different with migraine! I admit, sometimes even I give my husband unsolicited advice after reading about some new treatment or therapy. We both recognize that these suggestions come from a place of love (we may not try all of them, but we appreciate the thought).
He plans for how migraines will impact his vacations and big social events
My husband and I recently traveled to the Caribbean for a cruise. While I was worrying about how my shorts/bathing suits/T-shirts would expose my psoriasis, he was worrying about how bright sun, jet lag, and an unfamiliar pillow would affect his migraine. While I may worry that I can’t find a suitable dress for an upcoming wedding, my husband worries how loud music might exacerbate pain. We both worry about our conditions, just in different ways.
He feels a weight lifted when he meets others with migraine
Lastly, my husband also finds incredible solace in the stories of others with migraine. Knowing that he is not alone with the pain and inner turmoil is like lifting a burden, even if only for a short time. I feel the same. Participating in the PlaquePsoriasis.com community gives me a sense of purpose and of solidarity. We both must continue living with these chronic conditions, but the threat of isolation no longer contributes to the weight.
How often do you experience brain fog?